Washington: Marching, wiggling and tapping a beat help children develop their self-regulation skills and improve school readiness, suggest researchers.
Associate professor Kate Williams designed a low-cost preschool program focussing exclusively on rhythm and movement activities linked to pathways in the brain to support attentional and emotional development.
“Think heads, shoulders, knees, and toes but do the actions backwards while you sing forwards. It tricks the brain into gear,” said Assoc Professor Williams.
The Queensland study, involving 113 children from lower socioeconomic communities, measured the effectiveness of the program to boost self-regulation skills.
“Being able to control your own emotions, cognition and behaviors is an important predictor of school readiness and early school achievement,” said Prof Williams.
“The aim is for regular sessions to be introduced into the daily activities of young children to help support their attentional and emotional regulation skills, inhibition, and working memory. We want all early childhood teachers to feel confident to run these fun and important activities,” she added.
The findings have been published in the international peer-reviewed journal — Psychology of Music.
The study is a unique investigation about preschool children and the application of a rhythm and movement programme to address socioeconomic-related school readiness and achievement gaps.
Prof Williams said differences in neurological processes can produce educational inequalities for young children who experience disadvantage. It’s been identified by the UNICEF as an international priority.
The study recognised what Prof Williams described as the ‘musician advantage’ enhanced neural plasticity and executive functioning, particularly among children given formal musical instruction.
“The children who have music lessons from a young age are often from families, who can afford them. The problem is that the children who most need the musician advantage miss out because it isn’t affordable for all families to access high-quality music programs,” she said.
She said the benefits of early shared book reading between parents and children have long been established.